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Oil and gas companies typically store fresh water in various water storage structures such as dugouts, water reservoirs, tanks, c-rings and other similar structures in preparation for using the water in their activities.

Some of these qualify as dams under the Dam Safety Regulation (DSR) of the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), which took effect on Feb. 29, 2016.

Are all water storage structures considered dams?

Not all water storage structures are considered dams. A dam is defined as ‘a barrier constructed for the purpose of enabling the storage or diversion of water diverted from a stream or an aquifer or both’. For a water storage structure to be considered a dam, the constructed barrier must store water above the natural surface grade of the surrounding area, which is referred to as live storage. Water storage structures that store water completely below the natural surface grade are referred to as dugouts. Currently the average live storage for dams regulated by the Commission is approximately 70,000 cubic metres.

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Dam located in the Dawson Creek area. The picture shows the dam at full capacity with the main berm and also the spillway in the upper right area of the picture.

Who permits dams?

The Commission has procedures to ensure all dams and water storage structures used in oil and gas development are properly licensed and safe for use. This starts the moment an application is submitted. The application is tagged and subjected to a rigorous review that includes:

  • available water sources
  • environmental impacts of dam construction
  • detailed engineering design
  • environmental and safety considerations

Companies must meet all requirements and any conditions imposed by the Commission before any authorization is granted to construct or use a structure.

How does the Commission keep dams safe?

The Commission employs dam safety officers and engineers who ensure proper oversight of the structures, identify any instances of non-compliance and issue enforcement orders as required to correct deficiencies. The safety officers, to confirm compliance, conduct follow-up inspections. Any orders and contravention determinations are posted on the Compliance & Enforcement section.

How many dams are regulated by the Commission in B.C.?

The Regulated Dams Map displays all Commission-regulated dams.

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Dam located in the Pink Mountain of Northeast BC. The picture shows the reservoir almost completely empty with the two inlet channels(left side) and the main berm(right side).
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